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The 'wow' factor: 10 of Major League Soccer's most memorable moments

ISI Photos-Matt Ersted

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's wonder strike to open his time with the LA Galaxy might be the most talked-about, gotta-see-it moment in MLS history. But it certainly wasn't the only one. Here are 10 others:

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Eric Wynalda’s inaugural MLS strike

There’s only one first; MLS could be around for 1,000 years, but no one can ever displace this one. Eric Wynalda’s bending right-footed shot was the punctuation mark on night that so man had anticipated for so long: Major League Soccer’s inaugural match, as a legitimate, top-tier professional soccer league took root once again in the United States. No one quite knew where top-level pro soccer here would go; wherever it was going, Wynalda got it moving in that direction in San Jose that evening.

Marcelo Balboa’s “bike”

Everybody loves a bicycle-kick goal. (Cristiano Ronaldo’s latest ride on his personal “bike” prompted us to rank the best ever!) Marcelo Balboa came agonizingly close to nailing a bicycle kick goal in the 1994 World Cup. In a World Cup! He didn’t quite connect with that one, but the former U.S. men’s national team defender did strike highlight gold in 2000. His “bike” that night against Columbus was MLS Goal of the Year.

David Beckham’s debut

“The Beckham era has begun at last,” the TV broadcast pronounced. Indeed, and what a profound effect it ultimately had. The hubbub had built for months through 2007 as the global icon had been announced as Galaxy property in January. But it was primetime TV on a swell Southern California night that “Becks” actually got on the field. A July friendly against Chelsea was the backdrop as the transformative figure first took the field for his new club.

Ricardo Clark kicks Carlos Ruiz

Carlos Ruiz was a such an instigating stinker, there’s no question that a lot of people probably wanted to haul off and kick the guy. Well, Ricardo Clark actually did it.

It was a stunning and mad moment (and totally out of character for Clark). But there it was, on a hot 2007 afternoon in Dallas, the Houston Dynamo and U.S. international midfielder putting a solid right foot into Ruiz’s side as the antagonizing striker lay on the ground.  “At first, you’re staring at it in disbelief, thinking, ‘Did that really just happen?’ and then afterwards, there was an internal giggle,” then-Dynamo defender Eddie Robinson told MLSsoccer.com years later. MLS fined Clark $10,000 and suspended him for 10 matches, causing the Dynamo midfielder to miss his team’s successful MLS Cup run.

David Beckham’s 70-yard strike

Maybe the aesthetic of David Beckham’s goal from 70 yards against Kansas City wasn’t everything it could be. But who cares, if it ultimately rolled into the net with lesser majesty? It was a goal from 70 yards! And how often does that happen? His 2008 hit to finish the job against Kansas City was a dandy.

Seattle Sounders’ opening MLS match

Anyone who had been around MLS for awhile could sense something special happening on that night in March 2009. The Seattle Sounders were literally re-writing history, and it started that night on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field.

Chants from the crowd of 32,523 echoed through the downtown Seattle ground as the Sounders took the baton and improved on what Toronto FC had started a couple years before – a more urbanized MLS driven by vocal supporters, fortified by something that felt closer to an “authentic” soccer culture. Sounders FC set the standard that night, further defining what came to be known as “MLS 2.0.”

David Beckham’s corner-kick goal

David Beckham scored a lot of MLS goals – but no others have been seen 7.4 million times on YouTube. That number alone tells a story; it remains the most-watched MLS strike (on the official channel) across the ubiquitous video sharing site. Here’s his bender from 2011 against a bunch of hapless, befuddled Chicago Fire defenders.

Beckham vs. Mascot. Yes, a mascot!

David Beckham (yes, David Beckham again!) didn’t really “fight” the San Jose mascot on that ill tempered evening against rival San Jose. But the image of a smiling “Q,” the Quakes’ cute, furry blue mascot creature, getting shoved aside by the global game’s most illustrious performer was priceless TV.

The fact that Q was holding a “SportsCenter is Next” sign helped nudge the moment into the national highlight package. Even today, if you Google “David Beckham fights mascot” you’ll get the goods. And they are terrific.

Thierry Henry’s “bike”

We told you everybody loves a bicycle kick goal. Especially when emanating from such an accomplished foot. Thierry Henry is on a very short list of MLS men who can claim winner’s medals from a World Cup, a European Championship and the UEFA Champions League. Henry has those. And he also has this memorable moment, the eventual game-winner against Montreal in 2013.

The save that saved MLS Cup

Seattle ‘keeper Stefan Frei has made hundreds of saves in MLS – 772 and counting, including post-season matches. But none will top his show-stopper against Jozy Altidore in the 2016 MLS Cup final. In act and circumstance, it was surely the most talked-about save in league lore. Not only was it a visual stunner, it preserved his team’s clean sheet on that cold day in Toronto long enough to force penalty kicks, in which Seattle prevailed to claim the 2016 trophy.

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